India takes on climate change

Snap Analysis
India takes on climate change

With the International Solar Alliance, India has taken the lead in the global war against climate change, a fight it is leading by example.

On January 8, the requisite number of approvals were obtained for an amendment to the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance, which expands the scope of membership to ISA to all members of the United Nations. While it may appear to be a mere technicality on paper, it is of seminal importance to the global fight against climate change. More importantly, there is a profound India angle to it which has led the formation of ISA and is at forefront in its evolution.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former French President Francois Hollande during the inauguration of the interim secretariat of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and Foundation Stone laying Ceremony of International Solar Alliance Headquarter in 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former French President Francois Hollande during the inauguration of the interim secretariat of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and Foundation Stone laying Ceremony of International Solar Alliance Headquarter in 2016.

Sunny side up

The ISA was formed in 2015, at India’s behest and launched jointly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then French President Francois Hollande and aims to contribute to the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement through rapid and massive deployment of solar energy. Thanks largely to India’s proactiveness in this field, till date 89 countries are part of the Alliance. Initially targeted at 121 UN member countries that lie between the sunshine rich part of the planet between the tropics, the amendment expands the ambit of it beyond the two concentric lines to 193 nations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), visiting the solar-powered metro station Dwarka Sector 21 in 2019. Germany joined ISA in this month.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), visiting the solar-powered metro station Dwarka Sector 21 in 2019. Germany joined ISA in this month.

Collective gathering

The broad objective of the ISA is to mobilise member countries, seek commitments from international organisations and mobilise private sector, to support rural and decentralised applications, access to affordable finance, island and village solar mini grids, rooftop installations, and solar e-mobility technologies. India has led it from the front by example, setting ambitious targets for itself and upping the ante at every available opportunity. With a capacity of over 30 Gigawatt, India is already one of the top three countries with highest solar power generation capability. There are plans to treble it to 100 Gigawatt by 2022 with rooftop installation accounting for 40 percent of it. With a historically low tariff of just Rs 2.36 per unit in one of the bids last year, India has also demonstrated sound economic viability for shifting from fossil fuel to renewable power-based electricity generation. It has also been recognised by the world.

“The advantages of India’s renewable energy resources are plain to see: they are low cost, protected from volatile commodities markets, and offer three times the job potential of fossil fuel power plants. And they can improve air quality at a time when our cities are literally choking,” said UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres in August last year. “In India, 50 per cent of coal will be uncompetitive in 2022, reaching 85 per cent by 2025. This is why the world’s largest investors are increasingly abandoning coal. They see the writing on the wall. It spells stranded assets and makes no commercial sense. The coal business is going up in smoke.”

Climate warrior

India’s leadership in the fight against global warming is not restricted to solar power alone. It has shown ingenuity and aggression in other areas too–be it in adoption of LED technology or providing LPG connections for cooking to the poorest of the poor as part of the Ujjwala scheme, one of Modi’s most successful welfare programmes. Armed with these results as a proof of concept, Modi has championed the cause of renewable energy at every multilateral forum.

“Climate change must be fought not in silos but in an integrated, comprehensive and holistic way. We will meet our goal of 175 gigawatts of renewable energy well before the target of 2022. Now, we are taking a big step ahead by seeking to achieve 450 gigawatts by 2030,” he said at the G20 summit in Riyadh in November. “Smoke free kitchens have been provided to over 80 million households through our Ujjwala Scheme. This is among the largest clean energy drives globally. There are efforts to eliminate single-use plastics; our forest cover is expanding; the lion and tiger population is increasing; we aim to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030; and we are encouraging a circular economy.”

Private corps join in

With the government showing the way, industries have followed the lead. Indian firms like utility vehicle major Mahindra Group and Dalmia Cement have taken the lead in reducing carbon footprint in their respective industries. In 2018, Mahindra became one of the first conglomerates to commit to becoming carbon neutral across all its 150 companies by 2040. It is not all talk and no show. The company for example uses 63 percent less energy to produce a vehicle and 33 percent less energy for a tractor today than 8 years ago.

“We are doing our part in the global fight against climate change with this ambitious new target,” said Anand Mahindra, chairman, Mahindra and Mahindra. “Mahindra will leverage the latest technological advances and its recently announced carbon price to work towards being carbon neutral by 2040.”

Dalmia Cement wants to go even further ahead and become carbon negative by 2040. That is a big deal for the cement industry that carries the perception of being one of the biggest polluters in the world. To do that the company is building a carbon capture facility with a capacity of 500,000 tonnes per annum by 2022 at its Tamil Nadu factory.

“To achieve the target of carbon negative by 2040, the company is planning to adopt 100 per cent renewable power under fossil free electricity initiative by 2030, doubling of energy productivity by 2030, switch to renewable biomass bamboo and waste to replace fossil fuel by 2035,” said Mahendra Singhi, MD and CEO, Dalmia Cement Ltd.

If the world has to win the war against global warming–the single biggest existential threat to the planet in this century, it has to follow the example being set by India.

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